The Herman Miller Aeron chair is one of the most recognizable vestiges of the dot-com era. Harking from a time when status symbols purchased with venture capital were more readily accumulated than actual profits, the luxuriously appointed Aeron chair costs more than a month's rent in a second-tier city. Thus, when one enters a room with a great number of these chairs surrounding a presumably even more expensive conference table, eyebrows are raised, and credibility seems to ooze from the business which can afford to appoint its meeting room so lavishly.
This is such a reliable gauge of big-budget operations that in recent years, one of the first things many AV consultants and integrators report when describing a big corporate project is the presence of Aeron chairs. After the number of chairs is revealed, little else needs to be said about the correspondingly sizable AV budget.
So when a recent radio ad for an office furniture distributor bragged that "we have all the colors of the Herman Miller Aeron chair", my ears pricked up. Colors? But they're black. The Aeron chair that springs lightly under the weight of successful executives is always the same color. In pictures of empty boardrooms, the woven seats and backs of these chairs is truly iconic. And it's never pink. Or lime. But before my mind could fully absorb this shocking information about the unknown rainbow of Aeron colors, the ad's narration continued, "including the new color: True Black".
True Black? Well, come to think of it, the Aeron chair is sort of a dusty hue of black. It's almost a dark gray, actually. Still, this was a comical innovation. True Black. The official dark color of the executive order. But with the Aeron chair already firmly established as an icon of companies who are "in the black", why would Herman Miller opt for "True Black" as its latest evolution in seating?
This tactic will remind many in the AV industry of some of the so-called "innovations" they've seen in product announcements in recent years. Sometimes it seems like the addition of a couple knobs, or even a new faceplate design trigger an avalanche of promotional efforts. However, based on conversations I had at the NSCA Fall Business Conference last month, this trend seems be fading a bit in favor of real revolution. Manufacturers are making fewer product introductions, saving the big fanfare for truly innovative offerings. Could this conservative approach be in response to the fatigue experienced by dealers who have endured too many "True Black" premieres? Maybe manufacturers' sales forces with reserve the "urgent" visits to dealers' offices for the distribution of real news, saving other, regular visits for relationship building and the gathering of feedback from the field. This can only be a good thing.